I figured I would share some good interviews that are not really circulating the blogosphere lately. The first is Marco Cardinale at Mladen’s Blog, a great read if you are interested in hearing the truth about team sports and sport science. Another great read is from the Leaders in Performance site with their interview of Fergus Connolly. Fergus is an Irish Consultant and is no-nonsense. You will
Carl, Marco Cardinale has some great thoughts but I felt both the text he co-authored and some of his blog show a pre-occupation with physical performance qualities in team sports which is not ecologically validated. Sprints, jumps, yo-yo, RSA etc are all interesting indices and fatigue is a strong factor in injury risk making fitness improvement, nutrition and monitoring somewhat impactful, but other movement quality concerns are very important too. I think for those from a sport science background team sports are a difficult proposition as the concepts regarding performance effects which have been ingrained from laboratory and clinical exercise science work are heavily distorted by the complex and unpredictable nature of team sports. I’d suggest some subtle changes to how effects are viewed is appropriate:
Statistical Significance: Likelihood that the change in a given measure is real. E.g. the mean improvement of -0.02sec for the 10m sprint was statistically significant, the 0.5kg weight loss over 6 months for obese diabetics was statistically significant.
Clinical Significance (often synonymous with “practical siginificance”): Size of the effect with relation to change for physical/physiological performance/health, e.g. the mean improvement of -0.02sec for the 10m sprint was a clinically significant speed increase, the 0.5kg weight loss over 6 months for obese diabetics was not clinically significant.
Practical Significance: Implications for sport performance, i.e. the actual relevance of the measure. e.g. the mean improvement of -0.02sec for the 10m sprint may not be practically significant for soccer players given the complex and unpredictable technical and tactical demands of the sport.
Exercise scientists will often use the definitions for clinical and practical significance above synonymously, because in clinical exercise rehab settings or in sports based on physiological performance like athletics, cycling, swimming, rowing, and triathlon etc the effect upon physical/physiological measures very closely reflects implications for sport performance.
In team sports with very complex postural, technical and tactical demands, this is not the case to the same extent. Physical/physiological measures are by no means useless but the practical significance of gains in sprints, jumps, yo-yo tests and RSA is not all that high beyond a point because the context is very complex and unpredictable. There is obviously huge participation in team sports like soccer, and while athletes might not show an extreme level of physical ability, there is often a great deal of untapped athletic talent. As a result, achieving the requisite testing characteristics on sprints, jumps, yo-yo etc does not necessarily require a huge amount of precise training, and a lot of different training parameters can allow us to reach this level.
A huge concern in (particularly non-contact) team sports is the issue of non-contact injuries and the lack of time available to train for S+C. In team sports, injuries to key players that prevent them from playing make or break a season and even seasons/careers both for teams and individuals to a much greater extent than improvements in sprinting, jumping or aerobic capacity could ever possibly be deterministic.
With reference to Helgerud and Hoff, Rosenborg did not break through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and improved sprinting and aerobic capacity from Barcelona was unlikely to have made a difference against Mourinho’s tactics in the 2010 semi final vs Inter, nor was it likely to see them surge significantly ahead from their previous level. Mujika’s youtube presentation shows youth players at Atletico Madrid besting the yo-yo test scores of a top European club with a very simple intervention and the likelihood of any of these Atletico youth players ever reaching that level of soccer is miniscule. As to the difference to team or individual performance even with large increases in sprints, jumps, aerobic capacity for soccer, realistically I think it isn’t huge beyond the context of initial gains.
Exercise scientists have in the past closely examined adaptations to heavy resistance training vs plyometrics vs “power” training etc in terms of strength, sprint times, vertical jump height and power at various loads and others. From the perspective of training efficiency and optimizing transfer to a specific sport (alternatively negating undesirable effects) more detailed adaptations than simply sprint, jump and strength outputs should be considered.
In the time crunched and competition dense schedules of team sport (and skill based individual sports e.g. racquet and combat sports) S+C, where injury prevention is a big concern and improvements in strength/speed/power/endurance are somewhat limited in transfer, I would suggest that adaptations to heavy resistance training vs plyometrics vs “power” training etc should be compared not just in terms of speed/strength/power but also in terms of effect on flexibility, alignment, running and deceleration mechanics, jumping and landing mechanics, tendon adaptation etc, as such broad reaching effects are vital to training efficiency and injury prevention.
While Helgerud and Hoff may have shown mean increases of 0.06 over 10m (no improvement for 10-20m split) and a 3cm increase in CMJ with quite sizable increases in half squat strength, I would question what further effects with excellent squat technique over a full ROM might be seen for the above and the 10-20m split and also whether barbell loads of near 2.5+ X BW on half squats are too much for maintaining posture if we continue to seek gains with that ROM. Moreover controlled full ROM may improve effects for flexibility, alignment at the hip/knee/ankle, tendon adaptation, inter and intra-muscular co-ordination during acceleration, lateral movement, deceleration/cutting, landing from jumps etc.
What is the impact of possible changes to these variables compared to 0.06 over 10m and +3cm on CMJ for a soccer player considering how much time is gained from technical ability and tactical awareness compared to rehearsed speed and the impact of injuries. Potentially these futrher measures should be of at least equal priority compared to speed/strength/power for athletes in sports with high rates of tendinopathies and other disorders at the knee and ankle, and high rates of non-contact injuries resulting from improper mechanics and alignment such as knee /ankle ligament ruptures and adductor/hamstring strains and tears.
I would suggest the effect of full ROM resistance training with good symmetry and postural alignment can be quite profound for flexibility, alignment, and inter and intra-muscular co-ordination during sport movements associated with injury mechanisms, and this effect can conversely be negative on all accounts with poor technique. In the game situation, detailed conscious attention to locomotion mechanics is naturally lower in priority compared to the sport-specific technical and tactical concerns, as obviously a striker in soccer is heavily focused on the position of the ball/teammates/opposition when making a run into the box, and Rafael Nadal has a lot to focus on when moving to whip a forehand winner down the line on a big point. As such, instilling excellent pre-existing characteristics is of the utmost importance.
I am wary of the trend of “hip hinge” exercises like box squats and kettlebell swings which empasise minimal ankle and knee ROM and torque, because particularly with reference to soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis and other similar sports, tendinopathies and associated disorders occur frequently at the ankle and knee however gluteus, proximal hamstring or adductor tendinopathies at the hip are more unusual, and the demands of sports in terms of hip/knee/ankle co-ordination during acceleration, cutting/deceleration, jumping, landing and many other sport-specific postures clearly require conditioning and co-ordination that is not provided through the “hip hinge” techniques.
Additionally, these hip hinge techniques put large torque on the lumbopelvic region, and in the case of wide box squats and excessively loaded static single leg work almost inevitably disrupt alignment of the knee, ankle and foot. While “arch”, “sit back” and “spread the floor” may be great cues for competitive powerlifters lifting heavy barbells they do not lend themselves to fluid dynamic/locomotive movement without a barbell on the back, and “arch” can give postures friendly to hamstring tears while “spread the floor” in a lateral movement may yield adductor strains and in a lateral or cutting movement a ligament tear. This is not to forget the “tear it off the bone” psoas stretching and “glute bridges” with heavy anterior tilt that we often see in the warm up. Strains and tears in adductors and hip extensors muscles during eccentric actions essential to team sport are clearly quite a large concern, and beyond deconditioning the knee and ankle, “hip hinging” must also be questioned in terms of lumbopelvic posture/rhythm and implications for strains and tears of muscles attaching to the pelvis.
As has been mentioned before by yourself, if we need to spend hours on other exercises/ therapy to address limitations or undesirable adaptations from the primary stimulus, this is incredibly inefficient. Conversely, if we can drive good effects for these same adaptations (flexibility, alignment, mechanics, co-ordination etc) from our primary stimulus this represents an exceptional efficiency gain very important in time crunched, competition heavy team sports.
The FMS and Measurement of Alignment, Mobility etc
The validity of the FMS has obviously been widely questioned. Frankly I think the FMS is a poor substitute for finding validated tests, risk factors, reference values, as well as exploration of mechanisms in the literature with respect to a specific sport and the common injuries associated with it from an epidemiological perspective. If an individual lacks the motivation or knowledge to access information concerning specific and valid tests, 1-3 on the FMS is a convenient option, and for a freshly certified rote learner assessing subjects with training/competition of low volume, low intensity and broad scope precision is much less of a concern. Motivation and knowledge is very desirable when dealing with sports or subjects with higher training/competition volume, intensity and specificity, and 7 magic tests assessed by integers just doesn’t cut it from my perspective.
It is amazing to me that some teams with massive budgets will give great attention to ensuring the precision of measurement of a jump mat, force plate, bar speed, sprint timing system (similarly gps, heart rate, RPE, hrv) and in these coefficient of variation of 1-2% is marginally acceptable while 5% is a travesty, but simple integer scores 1-3 from the FMS or similar are good enough for qualities of alignment and mobility, despite the devastating impact of non-contact injuries and the abundance of research on prevention.
What is the effect of 1-2% difference in Watts or sprint time for a soccer player’s performance and is the precision of measurement enough?
Statistically significant? Sure. Clinically Significant? A good time drop without doubt. Practically Significant? I’m not sure there’s much effect at all, and the precision of measurement is more than enough.
What is the effect of an integer change on an FMS test and is the precision of measurement enough?
As has been stated by many, changes not seen by the crude FMS integer system and the scope of the FMS tests can have profound impacts for pain, function and injury risk in a specific sport or individual. The simple fact is the use of units like degrees and centimeters allows better sensitivity in terms of statistically and clinically siginificant changes in validated tests and in movements which are relevant to practically siginificant changes in injury risk for a specific sport and individual.
The FMS product is fine for those without the need for precise testing, but I feel it is often a convenient option for those less prepared or capable for doing the research and leg work to identify and develop precise and valid protocols for their particular subjects. If we are talking about a trainer or coach who lacks the knowledge/background/resources this is arguably forgivable, but for those with the background and the funding settling for integers from the FMS is not a great outcome.
I enjoyed Mladen’s interview of Dan Baker ( https://complementarytraining.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/interview-with-dan-baker.html )who has done some very interesting research on adaptations to strength and power training which is very practically useful, as it highlighted some interesting trends and perspectives for team sport S+C. Many of the comments are very strong, including comments on the correlation of strength and power 0qualities to rugby league performance, that the strength and power training is extremely “hardcore”, precise and at a high level throughout the year, that studies on US college subjects are at too low a level to be very applicable, and that one needs to constantly evolve with methods from further afield etc.
There are a few issues I have with these comments:
1. Baker has indeed produced several interesting studies looking at the correlation of physical qualities to playing rank in rugby league and there are good correlations observed. However these correlations may be strongly confounded by biological age and training age and inference should be careful. In almost all comparisons of “elite” vs “sub elite” players at Baker’s club, a significant difference in biological age is noted, which may also represent a significant difference in training age, and moreover training age in a specific program which may quite specifically address the parameters being investigated. This does not mean the correlation will fall to zero but it does mean that the effect size may be decreased and other aspects or measures greatly increased at the elite level, which has big practical implications for training priorities.
For instance in “Analyses of tests of upper body strength, power, speed and strength-endurance to describe and compare playing rank in professional rugby league players.” ( https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=theses )The mean ages for professional NRL, semi-professional SRL and lower level CRL are 25.3, 20.7 and 18.6 years with significant differences noted between all groups. These age differences are extremely influential when examining absolute power and strength as they very likely reflect increased training age for strength and power development, and will influence conclusions on strength and power being truly independent discriminative factors with very high correlations to performance at the highest level.
In terms of analogy from a pure physical performance sport we will see that a group of professional distance runners show better VO2 max than groups of college and high school distance runners, with a very high correlation to performance between groups, but that does not necessarily mean VO2 max will be a decisive variable within an elite group that shows more homogenous training history and talent levels.
In Baker’s research, we are not only talking about training age, but moreover training age under the guidance of a very knowledgeable and experienced coach who is also the researcher selecting the tests in question, giving potentially higher probabilities for these types of correlations. In athletes progressing from late adolescence to the professional level, e.g. for the 18.6-25.3 mean ages of the groups above and for NCAA athletes, we would expect to see some gains in muscle mass and associated increases in strength and power, with diminishing returns and extent based on training history.
This was shown in studies by Baker himself (note “SRL” groups are likely always significantly younger):
J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):30-5.
Comparison of upper-body strength and power between professional and college-aged rugby league players.
Department of Sport and Exercise Science, Sunshine Coast University, QLD, Australia.
Levels of upper-body strength and power can distinguish between athletes of different levels in a number of sports. The purpose of this investigation was to compare the maximum upper-body strength and power of 22 professional National Rugby League (NRL) and 27 state- and city-league, college-aged (SRL) rugby league players. All players were from the same football club and had undergone the same preseason strength and power training program for the 8 weeks prior to testing. Maximum strength was assessed by a 1 repetition maximum bench press (1RM BP). Maximum power (Pmax) and power output with loads of 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80 kg (P40, P50, P60, P70, and P80) were assessed during BP throws using the plyometric power system (PPS). Despite no differences in body mass or height, the NRL players were significantly stronger and more powerful in every variable measured. Furthermore, the differences in power output between groups became more pronounced with increasing barbell loads.
J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Nov;16(4):581-5.
Differences in strength and power among junior-high, senior-high, college-aged, and elite professional rugby league players.
Faculty of Science, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. email@example.com
Ninety-five rugby league players ranging from junior high-school to elite professionals were compared for measures of strength and power. Strength was assessed by 1 repetition maximum bench press strength (1RM BP). Upper-body and lower-body power outputs were assessed during bench press throws and jump squats with a resistance of 20 kg (BT P20 and JS P20, respectively). The 1RM BP was a potent descriptor of playing achievement levels and was significantly different among all groups investigated. Both the BT P20 and JS P20 of the elite professional National Rugby League (NRL) group were significantly higher than those of the college-aged rugby league (CRL) group, which in turn were significantly higher than those of the 3 high-school groups. Senior high-school players were more powerful in the upper body compared with nonresistance-trained junior high-school players but not with resistance-trained junior high-school players. There was no difference in lower-body power output among any of the 3 high-school groups. The correlation between players achievement level and 1RM BP, BT P20, and JS P20 was significant for all 3 tests, with relations of r = 0.80, r = 0.74, and r = 0.61, respectively. The results of this study suggest that young rugby league players should strive to increase strength and power to attain NRL professional status in the future.
I think some are confused by the vernacular of “elite” vs “sub-elite” as seeming age independent when the above demonstrates otherwise. Changes in muscle mass/body composition with increased training age are obviously critical in many sports (again SRL = younger):
J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):153-8.
Comparison of lower body strength, power, acceleration, speed, agility, and sprintmomentum to describe and compare playing rank among professional rugby league players.
Baker DG, Newton RU.
Edith Cowan University, School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Joondulup, Australia. firstname.lastname@example.org
…describe and compare the lower body strength, power, acceleration, maximal speed, agility, and sprint momentum of elite first-division national rugby league (NRL) players (n = 20) to second-division state league (SRL) players (n = 20) players from the same club. Strength and maximal power were the best discriminators of which players were in the NRL or SRL squads. None of the sprinting tests, such asacceleration (10-m sprint), maximal speed (40-m sprint), or a unique 40-m agility test, could distinguish between the NRL or SRL squads. However, sprint momentum, which was a product of 10-m velocity and body mass, was better for discriminating between NRL and SRLplayers as heavier, faster players would possess better drive forward and conversely be better able to repel their opponents’ drive forward.…
This question is asked by Baker in Mladen’s interview
“From some of my published research, all these tests correlate quite highly with being selected into the NRL team, rather than the second division team or Under 20 yrs team. Can any university lab researcher show me a test that has a better correlation with selection than my research with these basic tests has shown?”
I think it’s good to keep in mind researchers whether “lab” based, university based or otherwise should always recognize the need to control closely for known confounders like biological age/maturation, training age and anthropometry when examining correlations, and be acutely aware of the effect of assessor bias in research design, which can potentially be an issue in studies where the researcher is also the coach of the athletes in question. A strong correlation between groups of varied levels does not necessarily indicate a correlation within performance at the top level.
It is also clear that the strength, speed and power numbers reported for rugby league players in the literature are good but not exceptional and we need to be clear on performance level and training level. On a related note there is an article titled “Acute and Long Term Power Responses to Power Training: Observations on the training of an Elite Power Athlete” here on this site https://elitetrack.com/articles-read-3844/ . A look at the characteristics of the athlete (a springboard diver rather than a lifter or track and field athlete) in question reveals:
“For the power athlete decribed in this article (age 26 years, body mass 74-77kg, height 178cm) the 5RM full squat and bench press increased from 80 and 60kg in late 1993, to 120 and 85kg by mid-1995.”
I would personally question whether this represents a study of the progression of an “Elite Power Athlete” or a highly trained athlete seeking difficult gains, as opposed to a less trained individual with big gains to be made relatively easily. In some sport science research, athletes in various sports are often described as being a variant of “highly trained” or “experienced” strength and power athletes but this is often not all that accurate. At the end of the day, Baker has to be credited for showing excellent scientific integrity by reporting his raw data. Unfortunately, not all researchers do the same and there have been a number of recent studies which report only effect size and not raw values while referring to athletes in technical/tactical sports as being elite/highly trained/experienced strength/power etc athletes, leading to over conclusion of the findings by many readers.
Both Baker and Marco Cardinale ( https://complementarytraining.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/interview-with-marco-cardinale.html )express strange views from my perspective on learning, and don’t seem to think there is as much to gain from peers compared to looking further afield, however as per previous comments on some track coaches I tend to think that erroneous generalization is a real disease of the age in sports performance.
Cardinale: “I tend not to read sports science unless there is a good paper. I prefer to read a lot of material from other fields. At the moment I am fascinated by everything relate to brain and behaviour and persuasive technologies.”
Baker: “What I never copy is what others in my sport are doing. I don’t care what they are doing, I only care about what I should be doing and who in world sport is doing it better and therefore how am I going to implement or modify worlds “best practise” into my sport.”
which at face value seems contradictory to
“We also use the GPS to determine the intensity of the collisions (the G-forces of the impacts are measured by an accelerometer) as creatine kinase levels and muscle damage are related to the number of big collisions. This research is recently reported in JSCR, one of my friends who is also a PhD and S & C coach for an opposing NRL team did this research.”
While it may be psychologically gratifying to appear “too cool for school”, the reality is that being overly “generalist” is often a very poor return on investment and the exclusion of relevant data, studies or entire fields would be exceptionally short sighted (some might say arrogant) as the applicability of many non-specific areas is very low. The maxim “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” should ring alarm bells with these types of statements or waffle about integrating fascial matrices and so on from others. A number of coaches claim to be “constantly evolving” but this may often be a reference to simply evolving in the wrong direction.
I will be frank and say it also seems trendy for many coaches to be enthusiasts of pop science/sociology/psychology books (not to mention the barefoot running debacle) from such journalists as Malcolm Gladwell, who is in the business of creating inane polemic bullshit to climb the best-sellers list. It is not hard to see why the above attitudes are in play when there is a trend for coaches and sport scientists to be more fascinated by trying to apply amusing/engaging anecdotes full of fallacy and irrelevant of context from a journalist (or research from a loosely related field) rather than robust, objective findings from scientists specialising in directly relevant fields. On a related note, applying business models and principles to sport training is also fine but at the end of the day the most fundamental principle is that truly great businesses are exceptionally skilled at the business they are in.
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